I’m in the process of trying to buy a new car, and the experience has given me no choice but to assume that the economy is in such a positive state that thousands of people must be walking up to car showrooms with suitcases full of cash and throwing them at voracious sales reps.

I’ve come to that conclusion because despite being a serious buyer, with an above average budget, I’ve found it almost impossible to get car dealerships and sales reps to take me seriously and help me relieve myself of my hard-earned.

To give you some background; I have a wife and two children. The car will be used mainly by my wife for transporting our children, but also for her part-time commuting. So as you’d expect, my main motivations are safety, reliability, user-friendliness and functionality. My secondary motivations are softer, but are around efficiency, cost to run etc, and my third motivations are fuelled by my male ego and mean I’ll probably end up spending more money to get some better performance and gadgets than is necessary or prudent. I also have illogical and irrational marque prejudices in a silly desire to ‘keep up with the Jones’. I am a flawed human being.

The bottom line is: I am, or should be, a sales rep’s dream. I will make a purchase based on emotional needs – my family, my desire to own something German and expensive, my irrational behaviour. I will spend more money than I need to. I also, because of the impending expiry of our 3 year lease agreement on our current car, don’t have that much time to mess around.

I am, in marketing parlance; ‘Ready To Buy’.

So, I’m scratching my head to understand why sales reps aren’t banging down my door to try and push their vehicles onto me.

I’ve done everything that they wanted. I’ve downloaded their glossy brochures, filled out their contact forms, requested call-backs, tried to arrange test drives. I’ve not been completely unsuccessful – I’ve had 2 separate test drives, and several phone calls with dealerships, but that doesn’t hide the fact that none of the brands that I’ve dealt with – Volkswagen, BMW, Land Rover, Mazda, Nissan, Audi has a joined up, integrated, new business/CRM programme.

Why does it have to be this difficult to find what I’m looking for?

Why does it have to be this difficult to find what I’m looking for?

Here is my advice to them:

  • Have a mobile and tablet optimised website. Over 50% of your traffic is doubtless from these platforms. If you haven’t got one, I’m bouncing straight out.
  • Have a mobile app, which is integrated with your specs, dealers, and finance deals, so that I can see clearly what I’m getting, how much it is, and where I should buy it.
  • If I fill out an online form on your main website, which is then fed through to my nearest dealership, make sure that your dealers have resource and technology to respond to them.
  • If I arrange a test drive, don’t call me on the day to cancel because you don’t have the car I requested in stock any more. My weekends are precious, and if I miss out on plans with my friends and family unnecessarily because I thought I was busy test driving a car, then I will develop a very negative perception of your brand *ahem* Land Rover. Grrr*.
  • If I request a test drive of a particular engine type and model, which your dealer doesn’t happen to have in stock at the time, make sure that within a realistic timeframe (a week?) you get them one from somewhere else in the country. I’ve done my research, worked out which one I want, and if it drives well, I have the money to buy it. But I’m not going to without driving it.
  • Respond in kind. If I send you an email, it’s probably because I’m at work and can’t call you. Don’t call me back. I won’t be able to answer.
  • Don’t make it so complicated. Do you really need hundreds of individual specifications of vehicles? I’m relatively well informed about cars (I’d imagine more so than the majority of prospective purchasers), but if I can’t tell the difference between a ‘MATCH 2.0 ltr TDI BMT 2WD 6 speed manual 150’ and an ‘R-LINE 2.0 ltr TDI BMT 4MOTION’, then you’re making it too hard. People don’t like hard. 
  • Have more transparent pricing. I mean real pricing. The vast majority of people don’t like the haggle. They’re genuinely scared of it. If I ask you ‘how much?’ and you answer with ‘the OTR price is £X, but I’m sure we can do some sort of deal...’ then I immediately think that you were trying to rip me off with the OTR price, and even if I negotiate you down, I still won’t really know whether I’ve got a good deal or not. I don’t like buying things from people I don’t trust, and I certainly won’t be coming back.
Do I trust this guy?

Do I trust this guy?

It’s no surprise (based on my experience), that car dealers are down there with Estate Agents, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Traffic Wardens and No-Win-No-Fee Solicitors in the ‘who would you cross the road to avoid’ stakes. But putting my experience aside, I have no idea why that’s the case. Most of us need a car, so why is it so difficult to get dealers to provide them to us, and why is it so hard to get what we want? Perhaps I’ve answered my own question – it’s probably a seller’s market, and in an era when, eg. Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Porsche, SEAT and Skoda are all owned by the same company, perhaps there’s no incentive for individual brands to try and gain competitive advantage.

However, my biggest bugbear from a marketing perspective is the wasted opportunity. Most of the brands in questions have invested significantly in the ‘showroom’. I know and like their brand, their website is very glossy and slick and makes all their cars look amazing, they have a network of dealers in place, and have lots of options to make my life easier (finance, extended warranty, all in one servicing etc), but they’re not joined up and they don’t work! The consumer journey/path to purchase/user experience is too complicated and fractured.

They can improve in a number of ways:

  • By making their Marcomms joined up. Brand & dealers must co-exist in harmony. They should be collaborating better to maintain a consistent message.
  • By making the information about their cars and dealerships bitesize, simple to understand and easy to consume. (Without exception, whenever I’ve had a specific question around boot capacity, insurance band, road tax, 0-60 times, it’s been easier to find out from a third party website – Whatcar, Carbuyer, Parkers. Why can’t I get that information easily directly from source?)
  • By improving their CRM and following up their opportunities better, to ensure that an inbound enquiry from a customer is dealt with satisfactorily (or at all!).
  • By giving the consumer control. Why can’t I enter my requirements and budget into a mobile app and have dealers ‘bid’ for my custom? It may hit their margins, but it would increase their sale conversion rate.
  • Understanding that they are more likely to create brand loyalty through their service, not their product.
This is very pretty, and the site is flashy (but doesn’t work on my mobile), but why isn’t there a shortcut for those of us who know what we want already?

This is very pretty, and the site is flashy (but doesn’t work on my mobile), but why isn’t there a shortcut for those of us who know what we want already?

I will end up buying one of their cars because I have no choice. But I’ll probably end up spending more than I want, and I won’t enjoy the experience, and I (probably) won’t stay loyal to that brand. What a waste of a ‘Ready To Buy’ customer.

If you’re a car brand/dealer reading this and want to a) sell me a car or even b) hire us to help fix your broken CRM, then please do get in touch...